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1879 Flowing Hair Stella, Proof
Planchet Striations are Still Evident, As Always

1879 $4 Flowing Hair, Judd-1635, Pollock-1832, R.3 -- PCGS Genuine. Proof. The 1879 Flowing Hair stellas produced in gold were distributed to Congressmen in three-piece sets that also included the Judd-1617 and Judd-1626 silver dollars, a.k.a. the "Goloid Metric Dollar" and the "Silver Metric Dollar," as Philadelphia numismatist Samuel K. Harzfeld called them in a June 30, 1880 offering through Messrs. Bangs & Co. of New York City, lots 393-395. The pieces were offered separately with an option for all three to be bought together; they apparently sold as a group for $50. Harzfeld wrote a tantalizing beginning to the lot description: "This is one of the original 15 sets, submitted to Congress."

We have written of this offering before. The "original stellas" would have been produced in a true metric alloy totaling 7 gm net weight, which is six-sevenths gold, with the remaining one-seventh composed of a 30:70 silver-copper alloy. (This works out to 85.7142% gold, with the remaining one-seventh [14.2857%] silver 4.2857% and copper 10.0000%.) Such an awkward alloy would surely not have been produced by the U.S. Mint for a pattern coinage that had a next-to-nothing chance of becoming a commercial coin. The traditional alloy for federal gold was 90% gold and 10% copper, and it has long been our belief that the stellas were produced on normal .900 fine half eagle planchets shaved down to 80% of their normal thickness to produce the four dollar coins; this accounts for the planchet striations seen on all known pieces.

The "original" stellas were supposed to have been produced in the true metric alloy to the extent of 10 or 15 pieces, with the few hundred restrikes produced in the standard gold alloy. As time passes and every known example of the stella shows similar die striations, it reinforces our belief that no original 1879 Flowing Hair stellas exist. Unfortunately, Harzfeld provides no mention of the physical appearance of the stella beyond "brilliant gold proof" and certainly mentions no die striations or lack thereof.

This is certainly a "brilliant gold proof" but in a different sense than Harzfeld intended the phrase. Each side shows evidence of vigorous cleaning, and as a result the surfaces are unnaturally bright. Even so, close examination with a loupe reveals the striations on the central devices that are seen on all stellas. There are no detracting contact marks on either side.(Registry values: P1, N1) (NGC ID# 28AZ, PCGS# 8057)

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Auction Dates
September, 2013
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 6
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Page Views: 730

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